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Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, the Cabin Fee Act, which I have sponsored for several Congresses, sets a new fee schedule for the 14,000 privately owned cabins in our national forests. It creates a simple, straightforward, and predictable fee schedule that is fair to cabin owners, the Forest Service, and the American taxpayer.
H.R. 3397 would replace the current complex and unfair payment system by assigning cabin fees to tiers based on the cabin lot's appraised value. The fees would rise with inflation, but otherwise would be a fixed fee. This means that families would no longer face sudden, unexpected jumps to unaffordable levels, and the maximum fees are kept from going above $5,000 a year.
As considered on the House floor today, the Cabin Fee Act is revenue neutral. The CBO score is zero.
Many of the private cabins on Forest Service land are simple, rustic structures hand-built by the grandparents of current owners early in the last century and passed down from generation to generation. The overwhelming majority of these cabins are modest family retreats.
The purpose of this bill is to keep the fees affordable for people such as teachers, factory workers, and retirees, and not just millionaires, which is what would result if we do not make the change in the law.
The cabin owners affected by this bill are charged an annual fee for the use of their land on which their cabin sits. They do not get any ownership rights to the land. They have only a temporary and highly restricted use permit for basically the footprint of their cabin.
Because a limited use permit is not comparable to the rights acquired when somebody owns property in fee simple, it has proven impossible under current law to establish a fair basis for setting the fees charged to the cabin owners. The current system has resulted in unrealistic, arbitrary fee hikes that are completely unaffordable for average families.
For example, in the Northwest, the Seattle Times published a report that cabin owners in Lake Wenatchee, which is in my district, received notice that their fees would increase by more than 1,000 percent, from $1,400 a year to $17,000 a year. Skyrocketing fees also make these seasonal cabins unmarketable, leaving families who are unable to pay the high fees also unable to sell their cabins.
Unless Congress acts to bring about a course correction, thousands of cabin owners will be forced to abandon family heirloom cabins as the currently planned hike in fees goes into effect. This bill is strongly supported by the Forest Service because it preserves this cherished century-old program while greatly reducing and simplifying the Service's administrative burden.
The need to fix this problem has bipartisan support in the House and the Senate. So I urge support of the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.
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